The American Dream

Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.

As I was walking home this evening, I passed a man wearing a shirt that said in large silver letters, “There is no such thing as the American Dream.”  I paused.  It’s not every day that you see such a poignant message displayed on breathable cotton.  This shirt begged the question, is the “American Dream” just a collective fiction?  Are we all scrambling to travel down a path that leads to nowhere?

This past week, a friend of mine from law school got the chance to address this important issue with President Obama at a town hall meeting.  Much like the man I passed tonight, my friend questioned the concept of the American Dream.  He explained to the president that he attended law school to pursue a life of public service, and he is now in debt and very disheartened by the dismal job market.  He is having trouble meeting his loan payments, and thinking about the future is making his head spin.  As a young person looking towards the future, he feels that he can’t attain the American Dream.

This issue was very thought provoking, and not just to me.  Several news organizations have since followed up on his question and interviewed my friend.  To him, the American Dream includes having a job, and having a home and a family one day.  When I think about the American Dream, I think about my ancestors who came here from Europe hoping to make a better life for their children.  I think about the rise of the suburbs in the mid 1900s, and the ever quickening heartbeat of progress that has pulsed through this country for many, many years now.  But now, it may be time to reevaluate what exactly the American Dream really means to us personally.

The American Dream is billed as a collective concept.  It presupposes that we all want the same things.   But, I believe the dream is something that is personal to each one of us.  It shouldn’t be marketed like the bulls eye in the middle of a dartboard.  It seems that now it’s about reevaluating what it is we really want and need.

For me, having a law license was something I felt that I needed to serve the public most effectively.  I’m sure that those of you reading this have your own reasons for becoming an attorney.  The common thread between us is we had “attorney” as part of the fabric of our dreams, and we didn’t give up until we achieved that goal.

There is no easy answer to the question of whether the American Dream is still alive and kicking.  Perhaps we should each just take positive steps towards living good, fulfilling lives without regard to whether we have checked “achieve American Dream” off of our “to do” lists.

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